Thursday, June 30, 2011

A day with Google+

Do we really need another social media website?

Google apparently thinks so with their recent release of Google+.

I got my hands on an invite yesterday evening (through contacts on facebook, interestingly enough) and so far I'm quite ambivalent about it.

First of all, I enjoy the interface. It is clear and simple. Add to that the concept of circles (basically user-created groupings of your friends), and you have a recipe for something that might actually work. I loved organizing my hip and trendy contacts (all four of them) into categories. I've had issues on Facebook attempting to figure out how to hide particular posts from certain people, so this is just wonderful.

Another interesting aspect is Sparks, a feature through which Google recommends personalized content for any given interest. So a Spark called 'cycling' should provide information largely related to just that.

One extra bonus for me was the fact that it nicely integrated with previously googlized elements of my life, without feeling invasive (I'm looking at you, Buzz).

By far the largest negative was the fact that no one I knew was on. I'm aware of the fact that we're right now in a closed, invite-only test run, but damn it I need critical mass. Looking at my stream right now (Google+'s newsfeed), the last four posts have been from me... And there are only five posts total. Being connected to four people is boring and sadly, most of my Facebook friends are not early adaptors.

Which leads me to a previous ill-fated voyage of Google's infamously known as the Wave. Part of my problem with the Wave was that no one of importance in my life used the damn thing for more than a week or two. Add to that, we simply didn't know what to do with it. I really hope Google doesn't keep this recent endeavor in its crib for too long. If they do, it may very well suffer the same fate Wave did.

Friday, June 3, 2011

"Why did we have to buy this book?" -- Thoughts on the Value of College

If you've been paying attention to any 24 hour news channel, I'm sure you've seen segments questioning the value of a college education. Given the current hostile economic environment recent grads find themselves entering, it is a discussion worth having. After a few weeks of watching critics lob verbal bombs at an institution I've invested the last two years of my life in, I decided to share an article on Facebook. The responding debate involved people who recently graduated but couldn't find a job, people who graduated years ago and treasured their educational experiences, and folks like myself who were beginning to feel their hearts fill with dread at the thought of their degree not being 'good enough'.

If you have found yourself anxious about the future prospects of your hard-earned college diploma, read this article from the New Yorker. Louis Menand, the author of the piece, offers a few answers to a question he received from a student when he taught at a public institution. From there, he takes his readers on a journey to understand the historical development of the role higher education has played in America.

Personally, I found it helped to calm down my worries. It reminded me of why I've spent and will come to spend all those long hours in my school's library. It reminded me of why I drag myself to class when all I want to do remain in my bed and sleep. As Menand noted, there is more at stake for students like myself -- this is my chance to get a financial, social, and personal bite of the apple afforded to those with much more fortunate backgrounds than myself.

Lastly, in case you're wondering, the question that served as the striking force for this article was "Why did we have to buy this book?". I have half a mind to ask it to my professors once school is back in session.